California’s ongoing drought is expected to have a devastating impact on Central Valley agriculture this year, to the tune of $1.7 billion and 14,500 jobs lost. Even at the start of the summer, farmers are already being forced to dip into their ‘savings accounts’ — groundwater reserves — to make up for reduced surface water deliveries.
Meanwhile, the California legislature is in the midst of a mad rush to get a passable multi-billion-dollar water bond on the November ballot.
It’s not like we haven’t been here before, or won’t be here again. California has a long history of drought, and climate change models suggest farmers should get used to dealing with water scarcity. Read more
Years ago, The Zimbabwean biologist and environmentalist, Allan Savory of the Savory Institute, believed that large roaming animals, such as elephants, were destroying Africa’s great plains, leading to desertification.
In the years that ensued, some 40,000 elephants were killed in hopes of saving the plains. But, much to Savory’s dismay, the culling of these animals didn’t make a significant difference. After years of additional research, he determined it was poor management–not overgrazing–that led to desertification. In fact, Savory explained, he found that by allowing livestock to graze and roam across the plains, the natural cycle of what he describes as “birth, growth, death and decay,” actually has the potential to restore the world’s grasslands. Read more
The U.S. maple syrup season ended around Easter this year, making it short and sweet. A long, cold winter in New England prohibited the right combination of freeze and thaw that maple trees need to let their sap flow until March; even when they did flow, they were off to a slow start. Read more
What if we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and grow enough food to feed our ballooning population using resources we already have? Kristin Ohlson, author of The Soil Will Save Us, thinks we can do just that. And like a growing number of scientists, farmers, and good food advocates, she believes that in order to fix the problems in the sky, we need to put our eyes and ears to the ground. Read more
The year 2015 will bring a new set of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and there are some changes afoot that could help us recalibrate our food ways. The shift in thinking boils down to this: Sustainability. There seems to be a new recognition that we should protect our food systems so that they serve us for generations to come. In other words, we should eat what’s healthy for now—and later. Read more
The just-released synthesis report on global warming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has prompted some to start name-dropping Thomas Malthus. Malthus, you may remember, was the 19th Century British economist and demographer who warned that population growth would inevitably lead to global food shortages. In a New York Times article just days after the long-awaited report was released, reporter Eduardo Porter wrote that the IPCC “rolled straight into Malthus’s territory, providing its starkest warning yet about the challenge imposed by global warming on the world’s food supply.”
So should we be stockpiling Chef Boyardee and plowing down forests for farms to forestall famine? Not so fast. Read more
As market demand continues to grow for ethically raised, pasture-based meat, eggs, and milk, young graziers are joining the fray inspired by Joel Salatin, Jim Gerrish, and the incredible soil-building potential of grass-fed animal husbandry. Read more
Crazy weather we’ve been having this year: Monster snowstorms across New England, record-breaking freezes in the Midwest, drought, wildfires (in January!), and weirdly hot days in California. For many farmers across the country, and around the world, all this extreme weather—on top of ever-intensifying environmental and economic stresses—is pushing them to their edge. Read more
This is the third and final post of our series on the California drought. Read parts one and two of this series.
As we are all very much aware, California is now faced with an historic drought. Farmers generally have two choices when it comes to watering their crops: Surface water, which comes from sources like streams, rivers, and storm runoff, and groundwater, which is generally accessed through wells. At the moment, farmers in California have much less of the former, but may be unable to sufficiently and sustainably substitute groundwater. There are, however, many things farmers can do save water, or practice good ‘water stewardship’ practices to optimize farm production, save money, and benefit people and the environment. Read more
1. Rancho Recall: The End of Sonoma County Beef? (Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
Millions of pounds of beef have been recalled after-the-fact, many small local Bay Area producers are left without a processing facility, and some big questions remain unanswered. The Pt. Reyes Light, a hyper-local newspaper, also investigates. Read more